THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the country is on track with the plan to completely migrate to digital terrestrial television (DTT) in four years, as TV networks continue works on launching DTT devices.

DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told reporters Sunday there is enough time to push through with the 2023 deadline set by the government for the switching off of analog television systems, which it announced when it launched the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Migration Plan in 2017.

“2023 pa naman ’yun. So far wala namang major complaint o nagsasabi na hindi doable. So talagang on track tayo [That’s still 2023. So far there’s no major complaint, or anyone saying it’s not doable. So we’re really still on-track],” he said.

Just this month, ABS-CBN Corp. launched a portable DTT device called ABS-CBN TVplus Go, which allows the streaming of free-to-air channels via mobile phones and devices. This is on top of its ABS-CBN TVPlus boxes that it launched in 2015 and so far saw sales of 7 million units as of February.

Rival network GMA Network, Inc. is also scheduled to launch by the second half of the year its own DTT device MyGMA Go, which works similar to ABS-CBN TVplus Go by acting as a dongle attachable to mobile phones to receive signals for watching free-to-air channels.

The DTT shift started as soon as the early 2000s for other countries in other parts of the world, and the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg were some of the early adopters. But Mr. Rio said the delay for such initiative from television networks in the Philippines is due to the non-availability of digital-ready television units in the past.

Ang problema kasi talaga ’yung television set, kung ’yan ay digital na. Eh ang available sa market hindi pa eh. So sinong manonood ng digital [The problem was the television sets, if they were digital-ready. What were available in the market then were not. So who would watch through digital]… (But now) so far walang nagrereklamo. Kasi halos lahat na ng TV na mabibili digital-ready na [But now no one is complaining. Because all televisions sets you can buy are digital-ready],” Mr. Rio said, referring to the transition of networks to digital TV.

The shift to digital television is expected to improve picture clarity and to deliver a crisper sound, thereby improving television services in the country.

Once the DTT migration plan is completed, the DICT expects to free up some very high frequencies held by television networks, as they would be reassigned ultra high frequencies comprising channels 14 to 51. — Denise A. Valdez